Movies & TV / Columns

Stew’s Top 50 First-Time Watches In 2022 (#50 – 41)

January 17, 2023 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Hellraiser Image Credit: New World Pictures

Much was made from January through November of my quest to watch 300+ movies in the calendar year.

As I write this, it’s December 23rd, and I’ve seen 317 individual movies across the year, easily smashing the target I set for myself, so much so that I could take December “off” more-or-less and focus on my writing and getting stuff scheduled and ready at SWO Productions. I have a lot coming up for 2023! More comic reviews! TV reviews! Manga coverage! Fiction! It’s going to be a busy year, but that means I will be focusing less on cinema overall (but probably going quality over quantity and doing a full review of most everything I see rather than my monthly rundowns).

But out of my 317 so far on the year, I had a breakdown of:

* 70+ New (2022) Releases

* 120+ Pre-2022 movies I watched for the first time ever

* The rest: various rewatches of stuff I’ve seen before, either for my podcast, watches with friends, or just comfort food.

This short series is going to focus on that middle category. The blindspots I have filled in this past year… and there have been some great ones! I’m going to look at the TOP 50 movies I watched for the first time this year, basically hitting all of the Three-And-A-Half star and better movies I saw.

(I’m also going to do my Top 30 2022 New Releases, but as I said… it’s still only 12/23 as of today, and I haven’t seen The Whale yet, which I figure will be somewhere in that Top 30 once I get to it).

Let’s get into the first batch here:

#50. Scary Movie

I really enjoyed Scary Movie when I enjoyed it, but it’s a WILDLY uneven movie, more interested in throwing out five jokes per minute and hoping at least one lands than focusing on overall quality.

That said, even if only 20% of the humor hits (and it’s probably more than that, I’ll be honest), that 20% is downright hilarious. Shannon Elizabeth’s death scene alone makes the movie; if nothing else here made me smile, I’d still think fondly of Scary Movie because of that.

The parody the movie chooses for its ending/reveal is also absolutely brilliant. Maybe it’s a bit overlong and a fair portion of the jokes don’t work, but all in all? I definitely had fun here.

#49. Rurouni Kenshin Part 1: Origins

I’m a huge fan of Rurouni Kenshin, even if the creator has been outed as a true criminal scumbag in recent years.

Here we have a live action adaptation of a manga that has a modest budget, sticks to the visuals from the series (not trying to “realistic” stuff up), and still manages to look really good.

The heart of the first several volumes of the book is here! This translated a lot better than I thought it would. And the fight scenes and choreography are quite good. I haven’t sat down to watch Part 2 or Part 3 yet, but… maybe this year!

#48. Mayhem

Mayhem is a movie whose premise I have seen a lot of in recent years (balls to wall action and absurdity), and frankly… many of the others I’ve seen were more enjoyable.

Still, it’s a fun genre I will always take in when I get a chance, and Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving carry this flick on their backs with their impeccable chemistry and over-the-top energy. Weaving in particular excelled so well here that she would go on to make a similar movie two years later with Daniel Radcliffe, Guns Akimbo (one of those other takes on this formula I liked more).

I feel like all of these movies are, to a degree, chasing Shoot ‘Em Up‘s ghost, but hey… as far as my tastes go, that’s a great movie to emulate.

#47. Green Room

There’s some substantial stunt casting here in bringing in Patrick Stewart to play a Nazi piece of shit villain, but past that, you still have a highly intense flick with a ton of brutality that hardly ever lets you go.

I was invested in this and really wanted to see how–and if–our protagonists would get out of the situation in which they found themselves.

Are there negatives? Sure. The movie feels like it tries to get too cutesy with its plot–everything happens because one Nazi girl was going to run away with another guy, and they stole a baseball bat that was clearly used in commission of a crime or something–when it doesn’t really need to. But cut out that nonsense (do we really need to give Nazis a reason to be murderous?), and you are left with a tight thriller.

#46. The Closet

All of these years later, and I’m still a sucker for movies that are just homages to Ringu/The Ring. And we will talk more about that when we get to my Top 30 of 2022.

The Closet is a Korean horror movie about a single parent and his weird kid getting affected by a demonic force of vengeance from beyond the grave. And for the first act, that seems like all it is. But then you get to the second act, and this becomes What If The Ring Had Jokes? And for the third act, What If The Ring Had Action Scenes?

And for those tonal shifts that brought me some glee along with a formula I’m already a sucker for… you break the Top 50, The Closet. Good job!

#45. Willy’s Wonderland

I know this movie is divisive. I know a lot of folks didn’t care for it. But for me? What a blast.

Willy’s Wonderland doesn’t care, though. The movie is clearly doing whatever it wants to do. You are going to watch this flick and have about a dozen unanswered questions when you finish. The movie scoffs at your caring to have them resolved. There is a level of brazenness here I can’t help but appreciate. I sat and watched this movie and yelled “BUT WHY” at my screen several times, but… it was somehow in a GOOD way.

Also? Honestly? Emily Tosta is friggin’ gorgeous. Worth it for introducing me to her magnificence.

#44. Highlander

Look, up until now, this list has been “Yeah, okay, you’ve never seen those movies. That makes sense, I guess”, but I’m telling you: especially the higher we climb? There are going to be a lot of “YOU NEVER SAW ______ BEFORE?!”. Seriously. Wait till you see some of the movies in my Top Ten. You’ll be aghast.

I feel like Highlander is one of the first movies that people will take some low level umbrage at my having never seen before. I’m oddly not typically a big Fantasy genre fan. And out of everything Highlander, the only thing I’ve ever seen was Highlander: Endgame from 2000 when my buddy and I used to go see basically any new movie that came out.

The OG of the series is a solid action flick that created a fun little mythology that was deep enough to spawn several sequels and a TV show my best friend’s mom loved when I was younger. And Clancy Brown! He’s always terrific!

#43. Hellraiser

Maybe another surprise first time watch in a row here, but Hellraiser is one of those franchises I just never fell into. Again, I saw a rando middle one when I was a kid (I distinctly remember my dad and I renting Hellraiser 3, though I couldn’t tell you a lick about it except that The Box ends up as a statue outside a building or something at the end? I’m not sure), but this was my first visit to where it all began.

Big fan of this! The creativity behind the world and the ideas is both incredibly impressive and disturbingly depraved. I love that the Cenobites are bit players in the larger story, and it leaves you wanting more of them. I was expecting Pinheadmania running wild here, but I got anything but. That just whetted my appetite for more!

I followed this up with Hellbound, which I also liked, though it fell a ways out of being in my Top 50.

#42. Dracula

Not the last Univeral Horror you’ll see on this list, as I have at least two ranked higher than it. And there were two more that would have been included had I done a Top 60 instead of 50 (So… honorable mentions to Frankenstein and The Wolf Man). I caught The Invisible Man last year, loved it, and then sporadically went back to the well a few times across 2022.

Creepy atmosphere and a classic story; you can really see how Dracula got so ingrained in pop culture here (Yes, I know it’s a book, but let’s face it… what most of us know of classic Dracula is this movie and his accent here). Lugosi just owns every second on screen here.

#41. Mom & Dad

Back to the Nicholas Cage well here, with Mom And Dad, a movie that may not be as carefree or fun as Willy’s Wonderland, but is more well-made. And it has Selma Blair doing so much heavy lifting as she carries this project on her back.

Cage feels like he’s in a different movie than every other actor, just NICHOLAS CAGE-ING the fuck out of his role here. Blair is tempered and nuanced. Cage is just going 100% energy every time the camera is pointed at him. It shouldn’t work, but… it does. Cage lets you breathe between the moments of high tension.


And that’s the first ten as we recount the holes in my movie fan resume that I plugged this year. Have you seen these flicks? What did you think of them?

We’ll blow through #40-31 next time, and I’ll warn you now: get ready for some anime and for more Universal Horror.

And for more reviews, lists, fiction, and a snazzy-as-heck podcast featuring guest stars every episode, check SWO Productions!

Until next time… take care!